#junk fees

22 04, 2024

Karen Petrou: Credit-Card Surcharges: One Inflationary Culprit the CFPB Could Catch

2024-04-22T09:29:18-04:00April 22nd, 2024|The Vault|

One could go on – indeed many do – about whether inflation is showing enough signs of a slow-down to warrant lower interest rates.  I’ve said before that lower rates won’t have the housing-affordability benefits advocates expect, but this doesn’t address the underlying issue of just how hot inflation may be running.  I’m not sure if anyone – including the Fed – really knows, but battles on my neighborhood listserv validated by growing data make clear that federal data overlook one hidden price hike driving more and more Americans flat-out crazy:  credit-card surcharges that are nothing but shadow price hikes of as much as four percent.

In fact, card surcharges are the epitome of the “junk” fees the CFPB has vowed to quash.  The credit-card late fees the Bureau lambasts are due to consumer sins of omission or commission – i.e., consumers have the ability – I would say obligation – to keep their card debt within amounts they can honor as well as the choice to pay on time.  How much should be charged for paying late is obviously a point of discussion, but that consumers have a duty to pay on time is indisputable.

In sharp contrast, card surcharges are often unavoidable and ill-disclosed.  The neighborhood listserv is something of a group rant, but it does include interesting illustrations of hidden credit-card surcharges that are often – think car-repair shops – meaningful and material add-on prices discovered only after the fix, quite literally, is in.

D.C. is an …

8 02, 2023

FedFin on: Credit-Card Late Fee Regulation

2023-02-09T09:43:39-05:00February 8th, 2023|The Vault|

Following on a controversial advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the CFPB has now released an NPR setting specific standards for credit-card late fees that also eliminates the inflation adjustments established by the Federal Reserve when implementing the 2009 credit-card law.  The NPR also seeks comment on still more stringent late-fee restraints and limits on some or all of the other penalty fees now charged by some credit-card issuers.  When issuing the ANPR, the Bureau also noted that it plans to advance other initiatives under its “junk-fee” standards, likely starting with those pursuant to ….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

31 10, 2022

Karen Petrou: The Moral Dilemma of CFPB Dictate

2022-11-01T16:56:49-04:00October 31st, 2022|The Vault|

There is little question that electoral politics powered the President’s launch last week of a new Administration “junk-fee” campaign. How most of these fees matter to the majority of households fuming as they can’t handle prices at the food store and fuel pump is yet to be seen, but politics is only part of the reason for the CFPB’s high-priority blitz against “surprise” fees. Politics is easily understood, if not practiced to maximum advantage. Regulatory actions founded on moral philosophy are not only a compliance conundrum, but also an intellectual quandary.

Question for today’s class: is it right for Rohit Chopra to set rules regardless of the niceties of the rulemaking process when he believes certain acts or practices violate the natural rights of the U.S. citizenry? This may seem a hyperbolic description of the CFPB’s spate of enforceable pronouncements, but it’s the way I read many of them.

Take for example the latest edict on overdraft fees. As FedFin’s in-depth analysis will detail later today, the CFPB’s circular details a raft of laws and rules governing overdraft fees, going on to say how nice they all were but how little they matter anymore.

Because technological delivery can, the CFPB says, obscure fund availability, the Bureau concludes that fees which comply with every provision of each applicable law and rule are still unfair, deceptive, and/or abusive. Disclosures that comply with every provision in each law and rule also no longer suffice, the Bureau believes, and thus depository institutions have an …

7 02, 2022

Karen Petrou: The Junkman Cometh

2023-04-05T13:56:03-04:00February 7th, 2022|The Vault|

In its effort to combat what it calls “junk fees”, the CFPB conflates advancing consumer protection with curtailing market power.  This won’t work — that which is anti-consumer can take place in a super-competitive market (think subprime mortgages) and that conducted in a market powerhouse (innovative financial-inclusion products) may be very much to a consumer’s benefit.  Thus, if the CFPB makes a muddle of its two worthy goals, it will scramble its policies.  This will create a patchwork of conflicting actions that sometimes put consumers at great risk, sometimes put market integrity in peril, and sometimes do both at the same time.

Let me be clear: this critique isn’t an attack on either of the Bureau’s goals.  Consumers should not be duped into seemingly low-cost financial services only to be saddled with predatory after-charges; conversely, dominant providers should not be allowed to exploit their power no matter how low direct prices may seem to fall.  As we’ve learned the hard way from tech-platform firms and as the CFPB has rightly pointed out, that which is “free” can be very, very expensive.  For how, see our 2019 report.

However, taking two things you don’t like and combining them doesn’t result in something that’s double-bad.  Instead, one element in the mixture can counteract the other, the two elements together turn explosive, or the two together just make an ineffectual mess.  For the CFPB to maximize the likelihood of getting as much as possible towards each of its worthwhile goals, …

1 02, 2022

FedFin: “Fair-Fee” Policy

2023-04-05T14:22:57-04:00February 1st, 2022|The Vault|

Taking action to advance President Biden’s competition order, 1 the CFPB is seeking views on fees which it believes exploit consumers by virtue of unfair competition. Although many of the fees it cites are covered by statutory
disclosure regimes designed to ensure both front- and back-end fee transparency, the Bureau believes that many of these fees are unfair due to large-bank market power.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

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